Exploring IoT (Internet of Things)
for business growth
There’s a transformation
taking place in how businesses,
societies and individuals work
and a new era of possibility
is now producing ideas and
insights we never would have
thought realistic only a few
IoT is here and it’s time for organisations across the country to take advantage
of the transformational benefits of the technologies and expertise available.
IoT is a game-changer, allowing companies to create new products and services or
implement cost and time-saving efficiencies using data and insights gathered in
real-time. Environmental, health and social care IoT applications will also have positive
impacts on society.
The availability and low price of sensors, coupled with major leaps in data storage and
computing capabilities, means that the time is right for businesses to embrace the
major improvements, new opportunities and cost savings that IoT offers.
An introduction to IoT 3
• The road to IoT 4
• Benefits for business, industry and society 5
• Security 5
IoT in action 6
• Example application areas for IoT 7
• How a typical IoT system works 9
• Industrial IoT (IIoT) 10
Business models 11
• Software as a Service (SaaS) 11
• Hardware as a Service (HaaS) 11
• Emerging business models 12
The CENSIS IoT stack 13
• Sensors 14
• Microcontrollers, edge and embedded computing 15
• Communications, networking and wireless technologies 16
• Data repository 19
• Analysis and post processing 19
• Visualisation and presentation 19
Implementing IoT 20
• Finding IoT expertise 21
• Your first prototype 21
• Joining the IoT community in Scotland 21
Text with an explanation in the Glossary on P22 is underlined the first time it is used.
If you are reading the printed version of this brochure, you can download a hyperlinked pdf at censis.org.uk/brochures
to Internet of
Q What exactly does ‘Internet of Things’ mean?
A To simplify the vast amount of chat and hype around IoT,
think of it in its broadest sense as: ‘A system of things using
the internet or a private network to connect and
communicate with each other.’
Q What ‘things’?
A We say ‘things’ but really mean ‘devices’ that are
connected via the internet to each other.
Your phone is probably such a device. Some watches
are internet enabled. Often, you’ll hear ‘smart’ added
to the front of something to indicate that it can
connect to the internet and chat to other devices,
e.g., smartphone, smartwatch, smart lighting. In an
IoT network, each device has a unique identifier
and can transmit and/or receive data over a
Q But this is nothing new, haven’t devices been
connecting to each other for years?
A Yes, they have. But technology has advanced so
much in recent times that we now have the
capability to connect many more low cost, small,
battery-operated devices to the internet. If we
install a sensor on such a device, the sensor can
first gather data, then send the information
over the internet. This, combined with the rise of
low-cost cloud computing is enabling a vast
amount of new opportunities.
Q Do IoT devices need to connect to the internet?
A No, it’s quite common for IoT to operate in a closed
private network, especially in industrial applications
where control over a full system is required, or
where there is no internet connectivity. Everything is
contained within a private network so that no data
leaves the system.
Q What kind of ‘data’ is collected?
A Sensors detect and measure changes, e.g., changes in
vibration, impact, heat, light, energy, colour, gases and
temperature. So, you can create a system of sensors, all
working together to measure information that is
specifically relevant to your organisation. They measure,
collect data and send it on.
Q Send it on where?
A Usually, the sensor will send the data to a data repository
in ‘the cloud’ or local storage. It is stored, managed and
organised in the cloud then forwarded wherever you want
it to go. If you want to measure air quality in a city centre
street for example, the sensor system could gather the
information, send the data to the cloud for you to then view
the results on your desktop, smartphone or tablet. IoT devices
can also receive data which opens up the possibility of
controlling devices such as switching on a light or
changing a display.
Q But aren’t we all drowning in data already? Will the
information be meaningful?
A When the system is designed, software is built in to ensure
that the data is converted to meaningful information.
The sensor system will also be designed to measure the
quality of data required to give value. What you see is a
‘dashboard’ showing exactly the information you want
to measure. You can set parameters to show only
information that will affect decision making, rather than
showing you every measurement. Data analytics can also
be performed on this data to extract trends, anomalies,
Q Is it private or can other people see the information?
A Only you and those you authorise will be able to see it.
When setting up your system, you can specify the level
of privacy and security you require. We strongly advocate
designing with privacy and security in mind from the start
to ensure the system meets the needs of the application
without compromising the integrity of the system.
The road to IoT
From M2M to IoT
While IoT is a relatively new term, machine to machine
communication (M2M) has been around for decades. Starting
with the development of the telegraph in the 1830s, through
the first general communications networks such as ARPANET
(the predecessor to the internet) and the explosion of
personal computing beginning in the 1970s, M2M has been
used for monitoring industrial machinery and reporting status
information to a supervisory system. M2M communications
were originally wired systems but the development of
wireless cellular technology in the 1990s saw M2M become
The term ‘Internet of Things’ was coined by a British
technologist, Kevin Ashton, in 1999. One of the first true
IoT-type applications, however, was introduced at Carnegie
Mellon University in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s. Thirsty
computer science graduate students hooked up the campus
vending machine to ARPANET to check if a drink was
available (and cold), before leaving their desks.
The true difference between M2M and IoT comes with the
proliferation of connected devices, driven by technology
The development of
has allowed IoT devices to
contain smart, low cost, low
Technology evolutions driving IoT
In 1965, computing scientist Gordon Moore, predicted
that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit
(microchip) would double every two years. This proved
accurate for decades as more and more powerful
computing capability became available in smaller and
smaller packages. Today a smartphone has more
computing power than all of the NASA computers
used during the Apollo missions.
The exponential increase in microprocessors and
microcontrollers has seen a similar reduction in the
cost of computing power.
The development of wireless networks such as cellular
(2G, 2.5G, 3G, 4G and now 5G), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth,
LPWAN and Satellite, has made the ‘connected’ part
of ‘connected devices’ easier to implement, as they
eliminate wired connections.
Low power electronics and battery technology
Although computing power density has increased
enormously, improvements in power efficiency of
electronics has meant that the IoT devices can be
powered by small batteries for long periods (even years
in some cases). This, together with more efficient battery
technology, has led to widespread use of wireless devices.
MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) is a technology
using microfabrication methods to produce tiny (less than
1mm) devices, usually with moving parts, which can be
incorporated into sensors and actuators with an extremely
small size and cost. Examples of typical sensors in a
smartphone are: gyroscopes, accelerometers and
Benefits for business,
industry and society
Advances in low power electronics, communications
standards, and increased efficiencies in battery technologies
have heralded a new era for IoT. Power efficient, inexpensive
devices with a long range of communication are available off
the shelf, allowing all sizes of businesses and organisations,
in all types of sectors, to design and implement an IoT solution.
IoT enables organisations to have greater visibility into aspects
of their businesses that may have previously been hidden.
This valuable information, often available in real-time, has a
multitude of business benefits.
Better use of time speeds up processes
People exposed to less
Identify and eliminate process errors
Cost savings and increased
productivity leads to
Monitoring for health and
Pollution levels, air quality,
New and more effective ways to
monitor and report compliance
New products and service
opportunities or new markets
Allowing gathering of data to make better
decisions to benefit the organisation
Any device connected to the internet may be vulnerable
to attack, and IoT devices are no different. It is essential that
each device is properly protected with security designed in
from the initial concept of an IoT project. Secure protocols
should be put in place and rigorous testing carried out
The UK is investigating a plan to increase cyber security
across consumer IoT devices with requirements from
manufacturers to build in security features and label devices
so consumers have information about how secure their
UK Government cyber security information:
For more cyber security information go to: censis.org.uk
Studies show that with improved security,
businesses would not only buy more IoT
devices, they would pay 22% more for them.
The IoT cyber security market is forecast to
grow to around $11 billion by 2025 1 .
Bain & Company ‘Cybersecurity is the Key to Unlocking Demand in the Internet of Things. Syed Ali, Ann Bosche and Frank Ford 2018
IoT in action
Since 2016, multiple IoT networks have been rolling out
across Scotland, laying the groundwork for businesses,
societies and individuals to create IoT efficiencies, services
and products. These networks cover Low-Power Long-Range
Networks that enable lower cost connectivity and open up
a host of new and exciting use cases. Cellular networks also
have an important part to play in the IoT revolution with
new IoT standards emerging that will form an important
part of the upcoming 5G offering.
These new communication infrastructures will be the
backbone of new application development. Impacts from
IoT activities will be widespread and will affect every aspect
of our lives.
As well as consumer, retail, personal health and societal
benefits, industry will apply IoT to critical infrastructures
such as manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, healthcare
Within Scotland, there is a rich heritage of companies
developing sensor products, and the move into connecting
these products is a natural evolution of the technology.
The Scottish technology development and manufacturing
landscape is well capable of exploring, designing,
building, certifying and manfacturing technology to
achieve worldwide scale.
We want Scotland
to be recognised
internationally as a natural
test bed for innovation
in connectivity which is
why we are investing in
our digital infrastructure.
Kate Forbes MSP
Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy
Expected growth of IoT units installed worldwide
Example application areas for IoT
Parking in cities
Food production and farming
To optimise the use of parking spaces in cities to
minimise congestion and maximise income
Could an IoT system solve this?
An IoT system could manage parking spaces to the
benefit of the land owners, drivers and the environment
Sensors are embedded into the ground or mounted on
nearby buildings to determine whether parking spaces
Via a mobile device, drivers are directed to a space
without having to spend time looking for one.
Parking space owners (private or public sector)
manage land and space more effectively and
ensure maximum revenue. Vehicle emissions are
reduced when drivers no longer need to spend
time driving around looking for a parking space.
To optimise irrigation in agriculture and horticulture. Over
or under watering a crop can reduce yield quality and
potentially waste water, thereby impacting a farmer’s
Could an IoT system solve this?
An IoT system could ensure crops are grown in
Soil moisture sensors are placed around a field to measure
the level of water in the soil. At regular intervals, the soil
sensors wirelessly transmit readings to the cloud, where
the data is stored and information transmitted to a dashboard.
From the dashboard, the farmer sees the current soil moisture
and determines if the crops need to be watered.
If the cloud application detects that crops are underwatered,
it could turn on the irrigation system and water
the crops automatically, saving the farmer time.
If the system retrieves the local weather forecast it can also
disable watering if rain is forecast to prevent over watering.
Efficient buildings and hospitals
Home telecare and health monitoring
To monitor the ‘health’ of buildings and improve their
utilisation. Estate managers and building owners often
have little control over the heating, lighting and
occupancy of large buildings. This wastes energy and
Could an IoT system solve this?
An IoT system could help them better manage
Sensors placed in rooms assess when rooms are empty
or in use. At the same time, they monitor temperature
conditions, humidity and carbon dioxide, noise and
Building managers adjust room comfort levels, save on
energy used for lights and heating and make better use
of their facilities. In social housing, this could identify
potential health issues for residents from damp.
To support older people to live independently for as long
as possible. The existing analogue telephone lines for
telecare - currently used by 170k people in Scotland - will
be turned off in 2025. This presents a major opportunity
for the introduction and application of IoT and other
Could an IoT system solve this?
IoT systems will replace the current non-digital
infrastructure and will help monitor people’s health and
wellbeing in the home.
IoT sensors and communication hubs to be provided to
all people requiring services.
The IoT telecare hubs will provide alarm and health
monitoring services. This infrastructure will enable
advanced monitoring and help to keep people healthy
in their homes for longer.
Counting and understanding the flow of people,
e.g., in buildings, city centres, at sports events and on
public transport. Understanding how groups of
people interact with public transport systems could
improve infrastructure planning. Crowd management
at large events could be optimised.
Could an IoT system solve this?
Low cost distributed sensors could be deployed
across a transport network to anonymously count
and understand the flow of people.
There are multiple sensor methods that can be used
to track people using or moving through
a space, e.g.,by measuring footfall
or by using vision systems to
anonymously count people.
Enhancing the visitor experience at historic sites and
tourist attractions .
Could an IoT system solve this?
Indoor and outdoor location tracking could guide people
round tourist attractions and cities and give relevant
information at places of interest.
Small beacon sensors can be placed around attractions
to give people relevant information at set locations
through smartphones or other devices.
Better visitor experience and understanding of people
flow throughout attractions.
An understanding of demand/
capacity around the network
can support long-term
transport or infrastructure
City waste collection
Monitoring water supplies in large buildings and
distributed estates, particularly in remote and rural
areas. Bacteria in a building’s water system could
cause harm to the occupants.
Could an IoT system solve this?
An IoT system could check whether water temperature
in pipes could encourage harmful bacteria growth.
Currently, many water quality tests are conducted
manually. Automating this could save time and money,
provide clearer results, and identify trends
Sensors are deployed throughout the water system
to measure water temperature in real time.
Water temperatures are recorded around the building
enabling the building owner to reduce risk and report
health and safety compliance.
Optimising resources for waste collection; understanding
when bins are full, or if certain bins do not need to be
Could an IoT system solve this?
An IoT system could detect which containers are full
and plan the route to maximise efficiency.
Battery-powered ultrasound sensors are fitted to the top
of each container to measure the level of waste and relay
this information back to the dashboard.
A dashboard shows which containers need emptied
and plans the vehicle route accordingly. In turn, fewer
vehicle emissions helps to reduce environmental impact..
How a typical IoT system works
Systems such as:
Sensors are placed
in relevant areas.
Data is received by a
gateway then sent to the
The cloud application
performs data analytics and
sends to the user interface
A microcontroller reads the
sensors. The microcontroller
runs from a small battery
and is asleep for most of the
time to conserve energy, only
waking when required to read
the sensors and relay the data
back to the gateway.
Low power wireless
technology will allow the
edge nodes to run from
battery or other power
sources for years.
The value is here!
From the dashboard, the
user can see the real time
results and also trends over
the past days and weeks.
Industrial IoT (IIoT)
You will also hear IIoT
referred to as Industry
4.0 or Digital Manufacturing.
IoT systems can monitor and automate many complex
processes. Manufacturers have begun to recognise that
networks of smart sensors, coupled with real-time analytics,
can act as drivers of significant improvements in their processes,
transforming profit margins and operational efficiencies.
Predictive maintenance and
To avoid lengthy, unnecessary shutdowns of critical machinery.
Downtime isn’t only expensive, it can also be a health and
safety risk in some industries such as Oil & Gas where staff
may work in hazardous areas or in lone worker scenarios.
Could an IoT system solve this?
An IoT system can measure operating conditions such as
temperature and vibration around equipment and detect
when the equipment deviates from its prescribed parameters
– detecting deterioration before failure.
With real-time views of conditions across a factory floor,
hospital, oil rig or wind farm, problems can be identified and
managed before failure occurs. Scheduling maintenance
before something breaks saves time and money.
To maintain an accurate log of key assets. Managing the
location and maintenance schedule of physical assets,
e.g., important, moveable equipment in hospitals, can be
expensive and time consuming.
Could an IoT system solve this?
An IoT system can track assets in real-time, using RFID tags or
Asset locations can be identified and maintenance scheduled
efficiently. This reduces administrative costs and ensures
accountability and accuracy. Some industries require asset
tracking for regulatory compliance.
Expected market growth for asset
tracking IoT devices
Integrating sensors across machines and equipment.
Examples could include sensors measuring vibration,
temperature or robot positioning.
Remote management of factory units.
Other uses for IoT in manufacturing
Introducing wearables such as smart safety glasses or
smart hard hats for employees.
Monitoring production flow in real-time from start to
packaging and distribution. This can highlight quality
control issues and production lags.
Using smart packaging to manage stock control,
automating the ordering process. This can also
provide insights into how the product behaves
during transit, in various weather conditions and how
customers store and use the product.
Connecting to suppliers to track products through
the manufacturing cycle in the supply chain.
Using data collected to analyse how customers
use products, feeding innovation for new product
The evolution of IoT has led to the emergence of new business models. The rise of the data driven economy is enabling
new revenue streams to evolve and IoT businesses are well placed to capitalise on these new trends. As with the internet
around 25 years ago, the most significant business opportunities have not yet been seized or even identified.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS is a common business model where a software
provider hosts applications and customers access
these using a web browser or software ‘app’.
Payment is made through a monthly or annual
subscription fee and can be based on the number of
users, or number of transactions.
Benefits for the customer
• No upfront cost for software
• No installation, maintenance or support required
• Automatic updates
• Easy to scale up
• Potential higher cost over long time
• Vendor lock-in
• Integration with other products
Hardware as a Service (HaaS)
This is one of the most common business models for
companies selling IoT services. It enables companies to
generate recurring revenue for their product or service
through a subscription/leasing based model. The package
they pay for is often by monthly fee and can include the
item (hardware), all software, updates, maintenance and
often a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Upfront costs are
recovered over the product lifetime. The hardware is often
sold at a reduced cost (or at a loss). The value is in the
ongoing capability provided.
An advantage of this model is that it allows the business to
have a closer relationship with customers and understand
their usage of the product and potential future needs.
Benefits for the customer
• Pay only for using the service, not to own the item
• The item isn’t owned so doesn’t depreciate.
• No maintenance issues
• Upfront capital expenditure cost is transferred to
an ongoing operating expense
• Should you decide to end a contract, the hardware
is still owned by the company that fitted it
One application is replicated for many users, so only
one application to update and maintain.
• Easier sale – no capital layout for customer
• Regular monthly income
• Established customer base for future sales
Company use of email, office productivity tools and
customer management systems often follow SaaS
Smart home and home security products where
hardware, installation, support and monitoring are
built into a monthly fee, similar to a mobile phone
contract or a monitored home alarm system.
Emerging business models
In this model, businesses deploy devices to their customers,
generally at low/no cost to the user, to gather additional
data around another service they provide. The data gathered
is valuable to both the user and the company and can help
companies retain users by understanding how their product
is used. It can also help the company drive more efficiency in
Examples: Smart meters with home readout units for the
customers. Customers understand their energy usage and
utility providers benefit from better data about usage patterns
to create efficiencies in supply and customer relations.
(customer value service).
Charge per usage
With IoT, a business receives detailed device usage patterns
data. This model allows a business to supply a service in a
customer’s facility but the customer is charged on a pay per
use model; only paying for the time they use the device.
The customer does not buy the product, but the output
from the use of the product, and will pay a variable amount
depending on usage pattern. This model can be used to
reduce the capital costs of equipment by purchasing the
service on an operational basis.
Examples: In aviation it is common for the jet engine to be
paid for based on the amount of time the engine spends
in flight. The engine manufacturer owns the engine and is
responsible for maintenance to ensure the engine spends as
much time as possible in use.
Efficiency of operation
This is based around a company deploying IoT applications
that will result in efficiency savings within a customer’s
current business. The company deploying the service will
generally provide it at no cost to the customer but take their
revenue from any reduction in the price of the service.
This benefits the customer as they would generally pay
less than they currently pay and it also generates additional
information from the IoT data.
Examples: There are examples of this type of model in the
smart city and facility management space where a company
will use IoT to make a service more efficient and agree to a
form of reduction in current costs, with the company keeping
the savings generated.
One of the enduring problems with sharing of assets is
understanding the time each asset is used by each user
so they can be charged based on time used. It differs from
the product usage model as lots of different people utilise
Examples: In the transportation sector, bike and car-sharing
programmes run on this basis.
The CENSIS IoT stack
A company can be a user of IoT technology, or a supplier.
A good way to see where an organisation sits is to assess its
place in the IoT Stack.
An IoT system is made up of different technology layers.
The IoT stack shows:
• Each layer of an IoT system
• How they interconnect
• Where companies can operate
Some companies developing IoT will focus on one layer
whereas others will deliver services across the full IoT
stack. When trialling a new IoT application, there are many
companies and platforms that can ease the development or
implementation of an IoT system.
In some IoT applications, the end user of the technology
will only see the outcomes of the processed data.
This is because many of the technology layers of the
stack are integrated into the end application, and therefore
are invisible to the user.
This section will explore the different levels and guide
you through the development process of producing a
new IoT application.
If you read through the diagram below, you’ll see the IoT
Stack take shape. Most of the companies CENSIS works with
are in Levels 2,3, and 4 in the middle of the stack. We also
have close working relationships with companies in levels 1,
5 and 6 so can share new developments in software
Devices / Hardware Applications / Software
Analysis and post
networking and wireless
edge and embedded
Final step – the dashboard. At this stage, the end data
will be transformed into a visual format for you to easily
interpret the results.
Converting the data. Software companies will create
programmes and applications to convert the measured
data into meaningful information. Data Science, Artificial
Intelligence and Machine Learning can be used at this stage to
provide deeper insights into the data generated.
Where does the data go? Companies in this area have expertise
in how to store, manage and organise data. This is known as
From device to destination. Companies who specialise
in transporting the data to a designated storage
This is the brain of the sensor. It does all the onboard processing
of the data, carries out the initial configuration then packages
and sends it. This also controls power consumption. Edge
computing is an emerging trend where more information is
processed on the device, which enables technologies such as
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to be used at this
stage in the stack.
The starting point. At the very bottom of the stack is where you
will find the companies designing and manufacturing the actual
sensors that can detect and measure change. This can be in
vibration, impacts, heat, light, energy, colour, temperature etc.
There’s a huge range of light, motion, and temperature sensors
etc. already available off the shelf at low cost.
CYBER SECURITY BY DESIGN
As the ‘data gatherers’, sensors are the starting point of any IoT
solution. The sensors must measure an accurate representation
of the conditions, otherwise the data is unreliable and unusable.
The better the quality of the data gathered through an IoT system,
the better value and insight that will result from the analysis.
A sensor collects information from a defined source and converts
this into a signal that can be measured. The sensor resides at the
edge of the IoT system and is often referred to as an ‘edge node’ or
There’s a vast
range of sensors
already on the market
that can be integrated
into IoT systems.
Sensors readily available to measure or detect
• Distance • Gases, vapours, chemicals, pH • Humidity
• Image recognition • Luminosity, radiance • Magnetic & electric fields
• Material stress, strain • Moisture • Motion
• Pressure • Proximity • Shape, colour, pattern, movement
• Sound • Speed, direction, position • Temperature
• Vibration • Wavelengths of light • Multi-axis orientation
Ease of use
Will the sensor get too hot or
cold to function?
Common sensor interfaces
There are many different communication protocols
used to interface a microcontroller with sensors.
Unlike the rest of the communication protocols
found in IoT applications, these are mostly always
wired. All of the protocols below are commonly
supported by most microcontroller devices.
• UART / Serial
Always check with the sensor manufacturer that the
communication protocols used by the sensor are
supported on the microcontroller.
Microcontrollers, edge and
A microcontroller is an integrated chip that contains a
processor (CPU), memory and interfaces to communicate
with sensors. These are typically used in IoT devices.
A processor acts as the brain of the IoT device. Depending on
the application, this can simply read the sensor data and pass
it to the communications module, or it can perform more
powerful edge processing tasks.
A microcontroller provides
the ability to:
• Interface with one or more sensors and extract the data
• Control something, e.g., switch or unlock an item such
as a valve or a fan
• Perform processing on this data
• Transmit this data over a wired or wireless network
• Receive instructions over the network from the
application and execute these instructions.
• Control power consumption of the IoT device
The responsibilities required of the microcontroller will
depend on the nature of the project. It is the role of a
firmware engineer to develop the necessary firmware of
the microcontroller so it can carry out the tasks required.
Listen for any
the application and
execute these if
Remain in a
most of the time
Wake from a
sleeping state for
an event or an
Interface with the
module to send the
data packet over the
Take readings (data)
from a sensor(s)
some form of
data into a
format suitable for
sending over the
Criteria for microcontroller choice
• Power consumption: Effective performance and long
battery life at the lowest possible cost.
• Ability to support any interfaces required by the
• Performance need: IoT devices typically use low
performance microprocessors (sleeping most of
the time). If more pre-processing of the data is
required, a mid-range performance microcontroller
will be needed.
• Onboard memory component requirement:
If it is more useful to log data in batches and only
send at an appropriate time or when there is a signal,
onboard memory components will allow the
developer to store records of data that will remain
when the device is powered down.
• The preference of the development environment.
• Package size, reliability and ease of replacement
• Required functionality of software and technical
support from vendor.
Choosing a development platform
Microcontroller manufacturers offer hardware development
platforms for their devices. These electronic boards allow
engineers to quickly develop firmware for their products
without first having to develop any hardware. They also provide
a good example of the hardware required to support the
device. This can help the hardware engineer when it comes to
designing a custom board. Vendors will often provide source
schematics and PCB layout files (Altium, OrCad, Eagle) to aid
the development of custom/bespoke hardware and shorten
time to market.
For devices designed with IoT in mind, their development
platforms will often include various sensors integrated directly
on to the board, as manufacturers expect most engineers will
use their device to integrate with sensors.
Development boards are constantly evolving to include the
latest technology, especially in a rapidly evolving IoT market.
Some examples of popular development platforms are:
• Thunderboard Sense 2
• Arduino & Shields
• Raspberry Pi
• ESP32 & ESP8266
• STM32 family
When developing commercial hardware, products must have
the relevant approvals and certification (EMC, safety, radio) in
place before being offered for sale.
Edge computing moves data analysis from the cloud down
to the device itself and allows some or all of the data to be
processed real-time and locally – i.e., at the actual source,
on the device. Edge computing is driven by improvements in
power-efficient processing which enables complex data
processing on small, battery-operated devices. This increased
intelligence at the edge is starting to enable machine
learning and artificial intelligence applications on IoT
devices. Intelligent edge IoT devices will enable many new
opportunities for companies developing IoT applications.
The round-trip time from
the sender to the receiver
to process is
Onboard processing can adjust
the system in real time to achieve
Less data is transmitted
so costs are lower
Data is processed at the
device so the application can control
what data to send, potentially
Offline so more robust
without cloud dependence
networking and wireless
Connectivity and networking describe the (often) wireless
technology used to transfer information from the sensors/
end nodes to the cloud. To connect and talk to each other,
all IoT devices need connectivity. There is a wide range of
wireless technologies that enable this connectivity, each
with their own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the right
technology will ensure the IoT application runs smoothly, at
the lowest cost, and with the best power efficiency.
Some wireless technologies existed pre-IoT, whereas some
have been designed specifically for it, but all have their own
advantages and disadvantages.
Criteria for wireless technology choice
• Power consumption
• Data rate
• Module cost
• Connectivity cost
• One/two-way data transfer
• Global coverage
• Ecosystem requirements
in a fixed
on the move?
Are the sensors expected to be mains
powered or battery powered?
these for a best
Do the sensors require data rates in
the Kbit/s or Mbit/s?
Generally, the communications module will have the highest
power consumption out of all the system components in
an IoT device when sending/receiving data, so developers
should consider keeping the amount of data transmitted and
received by the sensor to a minimum.
‘Peak power’ can be used to understand power consumption;
however, this doesn’t include factors such as time for network
connection, data transfer rate and power consumption in
sleep. In general, the higher the data rate and range, the
higher the power consumption.
This list is by no means comprehensive but details some of
the most popular wireless standards for IoT.
Short range wireless:
How far do
Near Field Communication (NFC): NFC is an ultra-low range,
low-power, and low-bandwidth technology. Its function is to
exchange very small amounts of data between two devices in
extremely close proximity to one another. It is most commonly
used in mobile phone contactless payment systems. It can be a
very useful means of introducing the ability to quickly configure
the parameters of a device while it is deployed in the field,
without having to physically connect to it, or reprogram it.
No power source is needed for the secondary device (tag).
The magnetic field of the primary device powers the
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): RFID is used for
uniquely identifying items using radio waves. It is most
commonly used in card contactless payment systems but
is also used in asset tracking. RFID tags can operate with or
without a power source with range and cost increasing with
Bluetooth: Bluetooth is a global 2.4GHz personal area
network designed for short-range wireless communication.
Device-to-device file transfers, wireless speakers, and wireless
accessories are some common examples of where this
technology is most often used.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): BLE is a version of Bluetooth
designed for lower-powered devices that uses less data.
An ideal application for BLE is wearable fitness trackers and
health monitors. The Bluetooth standard is continuously
developing further functionality, and is gaining traction in
smart building applications. It is one of the cheapest modules
out of the wireless standards and is a popular choice in devices
requiring short range, power and efficient communications.
ZigBee: ZigBee is a 2.4GHz mesh Local Area Network (LAN)
protocol with a primary use case of building automation and
control applications with low data rates. For example, wireless
thermostats, lighting systems, appliance control.
Z-Wave: Z-wave is a sub-GHz mesh network protocol which
is used in similar applications to ZigBee. It is the dominant
standard for smart home applications.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi offers a high data rate (>100Mbit/s) but to achieve
this, it has a higher power consumption than other shortrange
standards. It is therefore suitable for high data rate
applications, e.g., video streaming and unsuitable for remote
locations or battery-operated devices.
Longer range wireless:
Low-Power-Wide-Area Networks (LPWANs): The
rise of IoT has driven the development of new wireless
technologies that are designed specifically to meet the
needs of IoT applications. These wireless technologies are
known as LPWANs. Commonly used LPWAN standards
using unlicensed bands are LoRaWAN and Sigfox, with the
emerging cellular standards NB-IoT and CAT-M1 operating
in the licensed bands..
They all have three main technological attributes:
• Long range: The operating range of LPWAN
technology varies from a few kilometres in urban areas,
to over 10km in rural settings. It can also enable
effective data communication in previously infeasible
indoor and underground locations.
• Low power: The communication protocol is optimised
for power consumption, meaning LPWAN transceivers
have the potential to run on batteries for 5+ years.
• Low bandwidth: Typical data rates are very low, within
the range of 100 bits/s to 350 Kbit/s.
The only real constraint for developers with LPWANs is
the low bandwidth, although this trade-off allows battery
operated devices a long-life, while maintaining long range
communication. These two features are essential to realise
most IoT applications. For the majority of IoT applications,
large amounts of bandwidth are unnecessary as only small
amounts of data are generated by the sensors.
LoRaWAN: LoRaWAN is designed with the aim of achieving
long battery life whilst being capable of communicating over
long distances. The LoRaWAN gateway is responsible for
passing messages from connected devices to the internet.
It is a open licence-free technology which means anyone can
buy a gateway and setup a network to talk to devices. There
are also network operators deploying LoRaWAN networks
where the deployment is managed by the operator and users
are charged on a monthly basis for connection.
Sigfox: This was the first LPWAN network to achieve
significant network coverage across large amounts of the
UK and Europe. All of the infrastructure is owned and
managed by Sigfox.
Cellular LPWAN: NB-IoT and CAT-M1 are the standards
that cellular operators are using to target the IoT markets
and will form the key part of the 5G IoT offering from cellular
providers. They differ from cellular in that they have better
power efficiency and a lighter protocol suitable for IoT
applications. These are still relatively new networks currently
rolling out worldwide. They will play a big part in IoT but full
coverage is not available in the UK, so ensure you check
NB-IoT: NB-IoT is the lower bandwidth cellular LPWAN IoT
standard. It is designed for fixed device location use for low
power battery device operation. It has higher bandwidth that
LoRaWAN and Sigfox however this comes with higher power
consumption for transmitting and receiving.
Cat-M1: Cat-M1 has higher data bandwidth than the other
LPWAN standards. The increased bandwidth also comes
with the trade-off of the highest power consumption of
the LPWAN technologies. The higher bandwidth means
that Cat-M1 can carry a voice connection (VoLTE) which
opens up multiple different use cases that are not currently
achievable with other LPWAN standards. It is expected that
this technology will be integrated into wearables and health
and telecare applications. The Cat-M1 standard also supports
roaming between cells by using the same protocol as the
current cellular networks. Cat-M1 is gathering momentum in
the North American market with the network going live.
Cellular: Cellular is the wireless protocol most familiarly
used in mobile devices to access the internet and send
SMS messages. It is a technology which is ubiquitous around
the world, with existing infrastructure already in place.
This can make it suitable for those applications which require
connectivity in multiple countries or in more remore areas
(provided of course there is a signal). It favours bandwidth
and range at the expense of power consumption. Summary:
Best option if high data rates, mobility and global coverage
are priorities. Can send large amounts of data over a long
distance but will quickly drain the battery.
Comparison table of wireless standards
Range Peak power Bandwidth Recurring connectivity
cost (excluding infrastructure/
The edge IoT nodes of a network are limited in storage size
and processing constraints. In an IoT application, you may
have thousands of nodes collecting data. The solution is to
move this data on to a database storage either locally (privately)
hosted or on a cloud storage platform where it can be
processed from a centralised location.
Traditionally, most IoT devices will push all data up to the data
repository, but with the emergence of edge computing, only
the processed data or data of interest may be sent.
‘The cloud’ is a term used to describe a global network of
powerful servers which are designed to store and manage data,
run applications and deliver content or a service. The largest
providers of these cloud services are Amazon, Microsoft, IBM
and Google. The cloud has replaced the need for companies
to run expensive physical servers on-site and offers server-like
services, with users paying when the services are used. Large
amounts of data can be stored inexpensively in the cloud.
Analysis and post
When data arrives in the cloud, a typical task would be for
a software application to
• Unpack the data
• Extract the values from each sensor (for example,
• Check that these values are within acceptable ranges.
Processing in the cloud
IoT devices normally send data to the cloud for processing.
Its huge processing power enables the execution of complex
algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence to
extract maximum value from the data.
Benefits of cloud processing
• Huge processing power can perform complex tasks
• Data analytics can be performed on incoming data
to detect trends or abnormalities
Analysis of the data
Analysis of the data is where the real value is unlocked and
many IoT companies build their value proposition around this.
For example, a business manufactures and sells hardware for
sensing the movement of people or traffic through an area.
Analytics are performed on the captured data. These analytics
can be used to detect trends or anomalies in the movement
of people or traffic, which becomes a “service” they can sell to
improve the efficiency of other systems.
options and the
The last stage of the process is to present the information in a
Depending on the requirements of the user, this could be as
simple an action as ringing a buzzer or sending an alert by SMS
that there is an abnormality.
More frequently, it is a web page, or dashboard, with a series of
graphs showing real-time information from the network. Many
cloud platforms now include tools to visualise data instead of
creating separate traditional web pages to display it.
This may also include an automated feedback loop or manual
two-way communication - the user may wish to input into
the system to control the sensors or an actuator based on the
information they have received.
The most successful solutions begin by focusing on the problem to
be solved or opportunity to be realised, rather than on technology.
Look for areas in an organisation where an IoT solution will provide a
benefit over the existing process. Perhaps manual monitoring could
be automated? If maintenance needs could be predicted, costly down
time could be prevented. More information in a specific area of a
business could improve a process or service. With the right information,
processes can often be improved, efficiencies implemented, and
business decisions made easier.
to ask when
There are three parts to developing an IoT system. The more bespoke
a system is, the more complex and expensive the development.
1 Off the shelf hardware - dedicated solutions.
Buy it, install it
2 Development boards, giving you flexibility to adapt
interfaces and functionality to your needs
3 Custom design - tailored solutions requiring
Is there a
case for the
does it solve a
1 Use existing networks - Wi-Fi, Cellular, LPWAN,
2 Setup own network - manage network server and
1 Database storage - Can be as simple as viewing
data collected in a spreadsheet
2 Dashboard information - web app to display data
3 Custom dashboard development - customised
web application or software interface
of concept trial?
Is senior and
Finding IoT expertise
If you have an idea for a product or service that could bring
value to your business and your customers, there are a
number of organisations who could support your plans.
If you contact CENSIS in the first instance, we can signpost
you to a suitable organisation for your needs, or we may be
able to provide advice, technical support and the resources
you need to create a full solution.
At CENSIS we see most IoT projects starting off as small-scale
pilots to test the functionality with off-the-shelf components
or modular electronics. This allows users to explore what
information is useful to gather and if the system will be
suitable for their requirements. A smaller pilot also allows all
the stakeholders to test, play, and understand the potential
impact of a larger scale rollout.
Your first prototype
Joining the IoT community
There are many organisations setting out on their IoT journey
and finding value in sharing thoughts and challenges.
With our experience across a huge range of market sectors
and our knowledge of enabling technologies, CENSIS has
strong relationships with Scottish companies, public sector
organisations, university research groups and hardware and
As part of our CENSIS community, you can join in with our
regular IoT meetups to discuss ideas with like-minded people,
take part in one of our hands-on technical workshops or
come along to one of our Future Tech events to solve market
sector problems in an open forum.
The highlight of our year is the annual CENSIS Technology
Summit and Conference, where we hear from challenge
providers, meet exhibitors who are showcasing new
technologies, and network and connect with the sensors,
imaging and IoT community.
There are many ‘out of the box’, turnkey solutions that you
can buy off the shelf to let you create a first prototype and test
your IoT solution.
CENSIS has created a flexible IoT development kit that can
help you get up and running with IoT quickly and without
the need for deep technical knowledge. This has a range of
popular sensors, communication and power options and is
flexible to allow the user to measure and send data easily.
It allows users to explore IoT concepts without having to code
or configure networks themselves.
Cloud / Cloud computing / Cloud storage
Data / Big data
Edge node / End node
End device, node, mote
IIoT / Industry 4.0 / Digital manufacturing
A component of a machine responsible for moving or controlling a mechanism or system.
A piece of software running on a server or on a device such as a tablet.
A network of remote servers hosted online that can store, manage and process data and that can host applications.
Enables devices connected to the network to communicate with each other. For example, to transfer information
from sensors to the cloud.
Protecting hardware, software and data from unauthorised access or attack.
Also known as a User Interface or UI, this allows a person to interact with the computer system,
e.g., a computer screen, tablet, mobile phone.
Analysis of captured data to detect trends or anomalies. Once patterns have been detected, this can allow
better decisions to be made.
Large amounts of data that are gathered through many IoT devices. By applying analytical techniques to
this data, it is possible to determine trends and make decisions.
Individual IoT sensor nodes usually have limited storage space, so the data they collect is moved to remote
database storage where it can be processed from a centralised location.
Standard commercial electronic boards that allow engineers to build prototypes of systems before they go on to
design custom hardware. Development platforms often include various sensors integrated directly on to the board.
Similar to fog computing, edge computing refers to computing services located at the logical edge of a network.
The sensor which resides at the edge of an IoT system is often referred to as an edge node or end node.
The software that runs on the hardware microcontrollers performing the low-level functions, for example reading
from sensors and relaying data back to the gateway or server. See also Firmware.
An object with an embedded low-power communication chipset.
Think of firmware simply as ‘software for hardware’. It is embedded in a microcontroller memory at the time of
manufacture and is responsible for controlling all aspects of the hardware. It is often permanent for the lifetime
of the project, but can be updated if necessary (for example, through over-the-air-programming). It is also
known as ‘Embedded software’.
Computing power that is physically closer to, or even housed in the IoT device (i.e., it moves some processing
from the cloud to a lower level). Processing is generally conducted at the gateway level before the processed
data is passed to the cloud. Often, this can greatly reduce the amount of data that needs to be transferred.
A device which connects end devices to the internet. It provides a connection point from one network (or protocol)
to another. For example, some gateways receive LoRaWAN transmissions from sensors and forward these over
the Internet to be processed in the cloud.
Internet of Things. A system of devices using a network to connect and communicate with each other.
Industrial Internet of Things. Manufacturers use sensor networks and real-time analytics to monitor and automate
complex processes in an industrial environment.
Machine to machine: connected devices exchanging information with other connected devices, without
An active device containing a processing core, program, user memory and other peripherals for communicating
with, and gathering data from, connected devices such as sensors, actuators, external memory, displays and other
microcontrollers. Microcontrollers often come in very small packages, consume very low amounts of power and
are commonly used in battery operated applications. Some microcontrollers contain radio modules for
communicating wirelessly with smart devices via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth etc.
Servers that route messages from end devices to the correct application, and back.
The power used by devices will vary over time, e.g., IoT devices will typically use more power when they turn
on their radio links. The peak power is the maximum power sustained over a short time and will often limit the
minimum battery size.
The brain of the IoT device – can read and forward sensor data or can perform processing tasks.
Radio-frequency identification uses short-range radio frequency signals to transfer data wirelessly. RFID tags
or smart labels can be fixed to items, allowing users to track and identify them.
A device which detects or measures a physical property.
Presenting the data gathered in a meaningful way.
Any form of communications between devices that doesn’t require a wired connection. Some wireless
technologies existed pre-IoT, some have been designed specifically for it. See page 16-18 for available technologies.
CENSIS is the centre of excellence for sensor and imaging
systems (SIS) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
We help organisations of all sizes explore innovation
and overcome technology barriers to achieve business
As one of Scotland’s Innovation Centres, our focus is not
only creating sustainable economic value in the Scottish
economy, but also generating social benefit. Our industryexperienced
engineering and project management teams
work with companies or in collaborative teams with university
We act as independent trusted advisers, allowing organisations
to implement quality, efficiency and performance
improvements and fast-track the development of new
products and services for global markets.
The Inovo Building
121 George Street
wave of opportunity
presented by this next
Contact CENSIS details:
Tel: 0141 330 3876
The Inovo Building
121 George Street
The Glasgow Inovo Building
121 George Street
Tel: 0141 330 3876
Tel: 0141 330 3876
Email: info @censis.org.uk
Join the CENSIS mailing list at www.censis.org.uk
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